The big four broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — joined forces in an effort to stop Locast, which is offered through a free app from a non-profit organization and streams television signals online.
The New York Times reports that the networks filed suit in the Federal District Court in Manhattan, arguing that the service should be shuttered for copyright violations and for failing to compensate them.
The report notes that Locast, which started up early last year, has more than 200,000 users in 13 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington.
“The networks, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, say in their complaint that Locast is eating into the licensing fees they get from pay-television companies like the cable operator Comcast and the satellite-TV provider Dish that carry the networks’ programs and sports events,” The Times reports. “The networks are expected to receive more than $10 billion in such fees this year.”
In their complaint, the networks are quoted saying: “A rogue streaming service skirting the law for the benefit of telecom giants does nothing but threaten the very investments in content that consumers value.”
The report notes that David Goodfriend, who’s behind Locast, has said in the past that it was his intention to challenge the broadcasters’ interpretation of U.S. copyright law.
Goodfriend is quoted saying in January: “We really did our homework. We are operating under parameters that are designed to be compliant within the law.”
The Times adds: “Under federal law, broadcast stations must provide their signals free to the public, making networks like those that sued Locast easily available through the use of an antenna. But broadcasters won a provision in copyright law in the 1990s that required pay-TV providers like Comcast and Dish to negotiate what are known as retransmission-consent fees to carry those signals.”
Locast reportedly believes its nonprofit status means the service is in compliance with copyright law as it is allowed to act as a so-called “signal booster” for broadcast programming.
The Times quotes a statement from David Hosp, a lawyer for Locast, in which he says Locast “provides a public service retransmitting free over-the-air broadcasts,” which is “expressly permitted under the Copyright Act.”